My Perfect Pokémon Game: How Pokemon Legends Z-A Can Make Up For Scarlet/Violet


It is no secret that the Pokémon brand has come under scrutiny in recent years. Despite being a household name for nearly twenty-eight years, the copious amount of changes made to almost every aspect of the video games has caused fans to become extremely vocal about their distaste for the new entries into the series.

Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet have taken the brunt of this discourse online with fans citing the games’ lackluster graphics, uninteresting Titan Pokémon, and the barrenness of the “open world” as the primary issues. The Nintendo Switch has undoubtedly ushered in a new era of Pokémon, with titles such as Pokémon Legends Arceus and Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee/Pikachu attempting to expand the traditional monster battling games into something more akin to RPGs like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Whether this choice was beneficial is up for debate, but there is a greater conversation to be had regarding the future of Pokémon.

In February of this year, as part of a Nintendo Partner Direct, the next entry into the Pokémon franchise, Pokémon Legends: Z-A, was announced to be in development with a planned 2025 release. The online discourse surrounding this announcement immediately became centered around what fans are both excited about and cautious of.

One of the key takeaways from the announcement is that the game will take place solely in Lumiose City, the Paris-themed city from Pokémon X and Pokémon Y. This return to the Kalos region came as a bit of a surprise as fans were under the impression that this new Legends-style game would see a return to the Unova region of Pokémon Black and Pokémon White instead, but the promise of a more open world game filled online discourse with excitement.

In an article highlighting the Pokémon Legends: Z-A announcement trailer, Liam Doolan of Nintendo Life wrote:

 “If it is like other open-world free-roaming city games nowadays, it could end up being absolutely mega in scale. It wouldn't be impossible for the development team to implement different biomes, either. It could even potentially feature completely different areas within the city (or in the immediate Kalos region surroundings) for players to access. And just imagine all the buildings we might be able to enter!”

There are an infinite number of possibilities for what this new Pokémon game might entail, but I want to paint a picture of what my perfect Pokémon game would be and how Nintendo can use Pokémon Legends: Z-A to regain some of the brand loyalty lost to the shortcomings of Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet. After taking a long, hard look at the previous Pokémon games and other video games I have relished over the years, I have come up with three key changes that I would love to see implemented in the new Pokémon game.

The first, and arguably most controversial, change that I would love to see in Pokémon Legends: Z-A is a real-time battling system akin to what we have seen in the viral live service game Palworld. I know that it may be sacrilege to say Pokémon and Palworld in the same sentence without calling one a rip-off, but the way Palworld lets you continue to progress the game while waiting for Pals to be caught immediately made me ask, “Why hasn’t this been in any Pokémon game?” It seems all too fitting for this gameplay mechanic to be introduced to the Pokémon franchise, exacerbated by the franchise’s shift toward more open-world games. 

Another major change that I want to see in Pokémon Legends: Z-A is a return to the art style we saw in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. This choice is also somewhat controversial considering the amount of criticisms fans have made against the games.

For as many issues as Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield have, I maintain that these are the best-looking 3D Pokémon games. The vividness and sharpness of the art caused me to audibly gasp the first time I picked up Pokémon Sword. The Isle of Armor expansion in particular has the most gorgeous beach environments that I have ever seen in a video game, boasting a circular shoreline with bright blue ocean waves ebbing throughout. Playing through this section of the game I was taken back to both the Rico Harbor level in Super Mario Sunshine and the Seaside Kingdom region from Super Mario Odyssey.

Returning to the art style from Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield would also benefit the game designers. By opening themselves up to this possibility, animators and artists would be able to reuse assets from these previous games, significantly reducing their workload. Reducing their workload would, in turn, either allow them to mitigate “crunch time” (the practice of working extremely long hours, usually 80-90 hours a week, to finish a game before its launch) or allocate more time to fleshing out other aspects of the game. 

The third and final change that I am hoping is implemented in Pokémon Legends: Z-A is a return to the mega evolution system found in Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire. One of the fans' key complaints regarding the Pokémon Switch titles is how gimmicky some of the mechanics feel. The best example of this is the use of Titan Pokémon in Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet.

Many players, myself included, have experienced game crashes caused by these Titan Pokémon, which ultimately turned people away from even finishing the game in some cases. The use of the Titan Pokémon in general also felt incredibly underwhelming when compared to past game mechanics, namely the mega evolution system which I am advocating for. There was always something immensely satisfying watching the cinematic scenes as my Pokémon reacted to the mega evolution band then taking out enemies with improved attacks. That heightened sense of connection with our pokémon would most certainly be a welcome addition to the new game, and I feel that it would also entice players who may have fallen off of the franchise in recent years. 

Of course, all of this is wishful thinking, and there is no way for us to know what Game Freak is working on behind the scenes, but it is still fun to imagine what could be. Pokémon is one of the most beloved franchises in gaming and its games will continue to sell extremely well as long as brand recognition remains as strong as it is, but that does not mean that fans will not have their issues with new releases. The vocality of Pokémon fans in recent years has me excited for the future of Pokémon. I genuinely believe that Game Freak has taken a longer-than-usual break because they have paid attention to fan criticisms of previous games. Pokémon Legends: Z-A presents an interesting opportunity for Game Freak to reinforce/confirm this notion. If it is done correctly, I can see Pokémon Legends: Z-A outselling every other Pokémon game on the Nintendo Switch.

With all of that out of the way, it is time for me to return to my seemingly endless playthrough of Pokémon Omega Ruby. Until next time, game on friends!